DescriptionTOMMASO REALFONSO, known as MASILLO (Italian 1677 - 1743)
Flowers in a Delft Vase (set of four)
Oil on canvas
28-3/8 x 18-3/8 inches (each)
Signed with artist's initials To.R. (three)
Signed, To. Realfonso (one)
All four bear multiple customs stamps (verso)
Newhouse Galleries, New York, NY;
Mr. and Mrs. F. Howard Walsh, Fort Worth, Texas;
Walsh Family Art Trust
Tommaso Realfonso was an accomplished still-life painter from early eighteenth-century Naples who specialized in fruit, flowers, foodstuffs, and game. His sumptuous and elegant aesthetic is fully apparent in this handsome suite of statuesque bouquets; their identical attenuated proportions are an indication that they were probably commissioned from the artist to adorn a specific private residence. That they remain together as a suite and in such fine state of preservation further suggests that as a group the paintings have changed hands very seldom since the early eighteenth century.
Realfonso's work belongs to a distinguished legacy of painting that combines the tenebrism characteristic of Neapolitan painting (here we have the ongoing influence of Caravaggio) with the brilliant coloration of the motifs themselves. This latter is indebted to the work of the Flemish-born Abraham Brueghel (1631-1697), who had spent most of his career in Rome and Naples (1670-1697), and whom Realfonso could conceivably have met during his early years of his artistic training. Brueghel's lushly painted bouquets of overblown tulips and poppy anemones, and baskets of bursting pomegranates and cascades of grapes, found tremendous popularity among patrons and contemporary artists throughout Italy and Spain.
According to the Italian biographer, Filippo Baldinucci, Realfonso trained in Naples from 1692 to 1694 under Andrea Belvedere (1642-1732), a celebrated master of still life recognized for his virtuosity in rendering a vast variety of opulent textures. He often placed a brilliant passage of impasto on the highpoint of all his forms, bringing them forward in space. Realfonso's studies with him ended when Belvedere left for Spain in 1694 to collaborate with Luca Giordano on several important commissions for the Spanish crown. Belvedere transmitted to Realfonso the style and compositional devices of Abraham Brueghel filtered through his own teachers, Paolo Porpora and the masterfully fluent Giovanni Battista Ruoppoli.
As Federico Zeri noted in his groundbreaking work on still life painting in Italy (La Natura Morta in Italia, Milan 1989), Realfonso preferred tall bouquets, such as those in the present suite of paintings, and often used the terracotta vases depicted in two of the canvases as containers for his flowers. The vessels were a signature motif of his teacher's work as well.
Condition report available upon request.
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